According to nearby residents, a proposed change to pollution regulation could damage Ohio River water quality
In Pittsburgh, Penn., pollution control compliance would be made voluntary under a new proposal by the Ohio River Valley Water and Sanitation Commission.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ORSANCO held its first hearing on the proposal Monday, April 1 in Green Tree. Of the 17 people offering comments, no one said it was a good idea.
Most of 17 commenters said the proposed change is driven by the shale gas industry and plastics manufacturers that would like reduced regulations on wastewater discharges into the river, according to the Gazette.
Robert Reed, of Bridgeport, Ohio, said he has lived near the river since he was born and has watched it come back from a “cesspool” under ORSANCO’s watch.
“I am heartened by the comeback of aquatic life in the river, but those gains will be washed away by the industrial development,” Reed said, according to the Gazette. “Those industry lobbyists have too much influence over this process.”
Pittsburgh resident Nora Johnson said the Ohio River is the drinking water source for 5 million. Johnson thinks that making standards “discretionary” will ultimately hurt water quality, according to the Gazette.
“Ohio already has a separate set of standards for discharges into the Ohio River, so the commission needs to make it clear there’s a need for standards that are protective of water quality,” Johnson told the Gazette.
ORSANCO Chairman Ron Potesta said the commission was established in 1948, prior to the federal Clean Water Act of 1972. It began as a multi-state cooperative to improve and protect water quality in the Ohio River Basin.
According to the Gazette, in its seven decades career, ORSANCO has set standards for discharges of heavy metals and hazardous chemicals from coal-burning power plants, as well as other industries along.
“Now the issue is, if we have the Clean Water Act and the states have their own standards, how much is ORSANCO needed?” Potesta told the Gazette.
According to the Gazette, he said a review of the commission’s pollution control standards began four years ago and its initial proposal in July 2018 was to eliminate them. However, after public dissaproval, the commission pulled back and proposed allowing states “discretion” in meeting them instead, according to Potesta.